Fearful - or, A Really Anticlimactic Post about The Dentist

I like to think I'm not terribly fearful.

I mean, I like to think I take most days in stride. When a crisis happens, I go into "level-headed mode" and push emotions out of the way and just deal with it. It's little things, though, that I "don't prefer." Like, I don't prefer to empty the mousetrap, so I offload that responsibility to Josh.

I also don't prefer the dentist. I'm not alone in my "dental anxiety"- up to 75% of people have at least a mild fear. For me, it meant not scheduling dentist appointments at all, as soon as I (and not my mom) was in charge of it. Not the best move, but it was a way of not dealing with my anxiety about the dentist. I have heard about he whole sedation dentistry thing, but I'm not a fan of non-necessary medications, and thing just seemed like an overreaction. I know my anxiety is unfounded and irrational- and I like to be rational, so, if the need to visit the dentist ever arose, I'd talk myself through it rationally and be fine.

Well, a month or so ago, Josh stepped in for me. He scheduled an appointment for himself and me for Jan 14th. I put it on the calendar and didn't think about it for a long while. That was probably a good move. As I saw the calendar event approaching, I started brushing more thoroughly, worried about what this new dentist would think of me. I even wonder if I should start looking for best skin care I could find to take care of this pimple that popped up on my chin- I wouldn't want them to have to stare at it for the hour I'm in their chair!

Seriously. These things went through my head. I was getting self-conscious about imagined criticisms I was going to theoretically get from someone I don't even know. A confession: Sometimes I go longer between haircuts for the same reason- I don't like to be told all the problems with my hair/scalp I ought to fix, because I take it as criticism about who I am or what I've done up to that point. Irrational, I know.

Josh's appointment was before mine, and I sat in the waiting room, reading the obligatory waiting-room magazines, and thought about my past dentist experiences. The poking. The prodding. The bleeding gums. The monthly trips to the orthodontist's chair to get braces tightened and create sore teeth for a couple days. The rubber bands I had to wear on my braces so I couldn't open my mouth even half-an-inch. The only cavity I've every had, when the dentist said "Oh, that's not too deep; we won't have to numb you" and started drilling and I could totally feel it. The shot felt way better than the drilling. It all came back. I described all this to Josh, and he said "No wonder you're afraid of the dentist." No wonder! Wikipedia says that the fear of the dentist is more like PTSD than a true phobia, and that makes sense to me now.

I quizzed Josh about his visit over lunch between our appointments: What was it like? Were they gentle? Did it hurt? Did they ask you about your medical history? Were they gentle? What did they do? Did it hurt? He said everything was fine, nothing hurt, they were able to fill these minicavities right there, during this appointment without numbing. My mind went back to my previous not-numbed-while-drilling-cavities experience, and I got worried. But I had to get through the appointment.


And, I did. It really was fine. They really were gentle. The technology this office had was better than my previous dentist, and nothing traumatic, or even uncomfortable, happened. I was able to go back to work afterwards. Everything was OK. I felt kind of silly. Thinking through why I had anxiety about the appointment beforehand- rather than just worrying- made me about to be more rational, and give this new guy a chance.

This is the result of most my fears- totally unfounded and irrational. I'd like to think I'm not fearful, but I am in many ways. If I were bold, courageous, tenacious- I think my life would look very different. One at a time, eventually, I'll get over these fears. I started at the dentist's office.


James Kubecki said...

I cannot STAND to go to the dentist, but I actually REALLY like the guy we have now (we had been changing regularly - Me: "I don't like this dentist" Shannon: "You don't like ANY dentist").

Seriously, last time I went was because I had a filling fall out, and I swear I was in and out of the chair in 30 minutes. He doesn't mess around.

Anonymous said...

I had nothing more than a phobia of the dentist. I never had braces, and still have not had a cavity, but I still used to be scared of the dentist. Personally I think it's the smell of the dentist's office. I've never been able to accurately define what the smell is other than "the dentist's office."

However, I've found a dentist I actually like going to, and as such no longer have my phobia of the dentist. (Also, his office doesn't smell like all previous dentist's offices I have visited)

*Dental hygiene message*
If you floss, and use an electric tooth brush, the amount of bleeding experienced at the dentist will be greatly reduced, or gone altogether.

Karen Sue said...

I have had a lot of dentist chair time and I have fillings in all my molars and many have been capped. Some teeth are just like that. You stand side by side with your brother and brush and you get his cavities. I have a crown, I have some root canals...So I've earned an aversion. But my last dentist was much better with the pain, but supposedly, he overfilled the molars, and they should have been capped before ( you know, when I had insurance to cover half of all caps)..so I'm onto another dentist. I asked the last guy "When does it just make sense to get dentures?" He said 'oh, no. As long as you can save any of them, it's much better.

Heather said...

I HATE going to the dentist. The scraping, the bleeding gums and the awful sounds that the instruments make! I think all dentists should put headphones on you and let you watch a movie while they work.


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